Alpine 8000 Everest 2002 Expedition

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Alpine 8000 Everest 2002 Expedition

Expedition: Leader: Willie Benegas
Members:
   * Robert Geier  -  Australia
   * Maria Maccecchini  - USA
   * Louis Strik  -  Holland

   * Pingui, a small stuffed Penguin, the only penguin to summit 2 times. Our team mascot

Sherpas:  After two summits together, I consider them my best friends in Nepal.
   * Phenden Sherpa 3 times to the summit.
   * Pemba Ringi Sherpa     3 times to the summit.
   * Mingma Sherpa            1 summit.
   * Dalengi Sherpa cook
   * Dorgi Sherpa C2 cook
   * Migma chiri Sherpa    South Col.

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My name is Maria and I am in Willie's team. He suggested I send you a slight variation on an Everest update. 

Climbing Everest: The fine line between tough and wimpy.

We are 6 people on a commercial expedition to Everest and we made it into base camp without any problems. Two weeks ago I started my acclimatization program and climbed up and down the Khumbu, ladders and all, just fine. I was totally excited, because I expected me to crawl, instead I walked. Unfortunately, I started coughing and it went downhill from there. I nursed my cold for 7 days, while talking 4 types of antibiotics, diamox and codeine. After a few days, I decided that none of that stuff worked and I discontinued it. After 7 days my guide, Willie, told me that we should get going with the acclimatization. I really did not feel like it, but also did not want to be the supreme stick in the mud and so I said "yes". The next morning we got going and my coughing was bad. I thought of all the articles I read on people breaking there ribs due to severe coughs. Now, why would I want my coughing to break my ribs? Walking with intact ribs is unpleasant enough. At some point I tell my guide: " Willie I do not want to go to camp 1. My breathing is too labored, my coughing too frequent and the spells too prolonged. I need to get healthy first."

Willie's response took me by surprise. He said: "You do not want to take the pain!" I never really thought about it that way. I always did everything I did, because I was healthy and there was no pain. Maybe an 
inflamed tendon or a bloody toe nail, but nothing major. Having a breathing and coughing problem was a pain I had never ever considered accepting. So I answered in all truthfulness: "You are right, I do not want to endure this pain."

We turned back and I packed my bags to go to the clinic in Pheriche and see, whether I could get fixed. The doctor there decided I had inflamed lungs and put me on corticosteroids. I settled in at the Panorama Lodge just next to the clinic, sat in the sun room and found myself with a lot of time to ponder, whether getting out of the acclimatization program was the right thing to do. Did I make the right decision or did I wimp out? 

I am back in base camp and am planning to restart acclimatization tomorrow. Let's see how it goes. Maria

Part 2: April 25, 2002: Since there is a lot of down time in an Everest Expedition you can have more. Maybe I am just simply being controversial: I sit in my tent or walk through base camp and camp II and hear people cough out their lungs, but if I ask them, how they are doing, the answer is "Great!, Nobody is sick in our group!" Well, I am very happy for them. Maria

Climbing Everest. The fine line between tough and wimpy - Continued

Due to my descent to Pheriche I am behind in my acclimatization schedule. On April 22 Willie and I discuss an accellerated program and decide to play it by ear as to slowing it down, if necessary. On April 23 early in the morning I start out with one of our sherpas, Chumbi, and we head for camp I. We make it through the ice fall without any problems and settle into camp I. We are supposed to stay there for two nights, but it takes us about 5 seconds to decide that we will move on as soon as possible. Camp I looks like a ghost tent settlement buried under a foot of snow. Of course it is Chum's job to acclimatize me and not to
look for more comfortable quarters. He sakes me every 5 minutes, whether indeed I have no headache. Since I really do not have a headache and since I do not like camp I either, we take of the next day and head for camp II, where we are both a lot happier.

I joined my team members at camp II, but since I was off schedule, they left the next day, whereas I had a rest day and was supposed to then attempt the Lhotse face the day after. However, that second night the winds picked up and blew off the tents that had been set up at camp III and broke most of the larger tents, like the cooking tent and mess tents, in camp II. That morning we started towards the Lhotse face, but the winds were so fierce that all the sherpas abandoned their attempts to reach camp III and turned around. As all the sherpas were coming down the mountain, Willie, our leader, decided that I had had enough exposure to higher altitude and that we better leave before the winds were going to blow us off the mountain. We left camp II and descended the ice fall in a snow storm - it was beautiful and scary to be in the Khumbu in a snow storm. Fortunately, we made it down safely and had a great meal back in base camp. In a few days all the tents will have been fixed or replaced and I will join the rest of the group and go up to camp III.

The enormity of climbing this mountain is slowly sinking in. It is not just a matter of endurance and mountaineering skills: it is a fight with nature on two fronts. The first front is the capabilities of the human body: it isn't made to live, let alone thrive up here. The second front is nature: the winds and temperatures are forbidding. Maybe I chewed up more than I can swallow. Time will tell. 

Love Maria

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